Written by Neha Singh and illustrated by Meenal Singh and Erik Egerup, I Need to Pee (Amazon link) is published by Puffin Books. It has been shortlisted for the Neev Children’s Book Award, 2019. Recommended age for self-reading: Regular 7+ | Advanced 5+.

Take a moment and go back to your childhood and recall being forced to go to the bathroom by your parents before a trip. Of course, thirty minutes into the trip there would have to be an unscheduled pit-stop in the nearest petrol bunk. Or maybe you were the type who could hold it for hours.

I Need to Pee is about Rahi, who needs to pee, a lot.

Rahi’s mother always asks her to use the bathroom before leaving the house, as any mother would. And Rahi does. But Rahi also loves to drink water, juice and such. Which obviously means that she has to pee a lot. And unlike many children, Rahi has a comfortable relationship with her pee. She, for example, knows that, “When you drink beetroot juice, your pee will become pink.”

Her trusty companion is The Book Of Important Quotes. It’s a book full of rules like this:

Every child should be allowed to drink water whenever she wants.

Rahi’s little brother suspects that she makes up all the quotes herself. Nevertheless, The Book of Important Quotes does not discourage children from drinking water and juices whenever they want, so it does sound like a good book.

Toilet adventures

Written in a very matter-of-fact way, I Need to Pee is about Rahi’s various toilet adventures, told without shame. From stinky train toilets to peeping toms to public-toilet-problems, everything is covered. Rahi’s favourite type of toilet is also explored in detail – the dry toilet in her aunt’s house in Shillong, which is apparently the most environment-friendly alternative for a bathroom. And the illustrations work well.

What we love about this book is that it tackles an issue that is hard to talk about. Why? Because… well, it’s a middle-class problem. How does one bring up the topic of dirty public toilet troubles when most of India doesn’t have access to toilets? Is it vain to complain about avoiding drinking water to avoid having to pee when most of India doesn’t have access to drinking water? Thousands of women choose to hold in their pee rather than use a public toilet, but a lot of people are still manual scavengers. (On that topic, do check out the very sensitively written picture book Puu.)

Vain or not, a lot of people would connect to I Need to Pee. Our only wish is that the authors follow this book up with I need to poop. Don’t laugh! Toilets are a serious issue.

I Need To Pee is one of its kind in the oeuvre of Indian Childrens’ Literature. What did you think of the book? Comment and let us know! Have you read our reviews of the other books on the Neev award 2019 shortlist? Also, check out the Best of Indian Children’s Writing (BICW) – Contemporary Award list!

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